I went out to demonstrate in my city on Monday, October 12, for the first time since the beginning of March. There were far fewer people than usual, probably because of the pandemic, and everything went smoothly, unlike what happened in Santiago recently.
The current violence is not surprising, because since the beginning of the movement, demonstrations have been repressed, criminalized, and the carabinieri responsible for the violence are only very rarely punished. They even have the support of their managing director, Mario Rozas, as well as the government. There is no will of the institution to improve its image.
Recently, protocols regarding the use of riot guns in protests have been changed.[[[[Since July, they say in particular that they should be used only when other methods – such as water and tear gas – are “insufficient”, and the ammunition must be less lethal, Editor’s note.]Overall, however, in practice the use of force has not changed since last year.
Myself, on October 29, I lost my sight in my right eye during a demonstration in Valdivia after being shot by the riflemen in the evening. It was the retina that was affected. In Valdivia alone, five of us have lost our sight since last year due to police repression, and there are many more victims in the rest of the country.[[[[More than 460 people were killed by fire from the security forces for a year, Editor’s note.]Two complaints have been filed for me with the prosecution, but the investigation is proceeding very slowly.
Two days after receiving this shot, I went out into the streets with relatives, but it scared me. Today, if I protest, I am no longer afraid, but I am still angry.
It is unfortunate to see so much violence, even when there are children or the elderly in the processions. When I was a student about fifteen years ago, I had taken to the streets several times, but it had never been so violent.
Demonstrations in Valdivia in 2019, October 21 (photo 1), October 29 (photo 2) and November 2 (photo 3). Photos taken by Felipe Borquez.
On October 14, Amnesty International published a report concerning the actions of the security forces between October 18 and November 30, 2019. He indicates in particular that the “state violence” which occurred was “of an unprecedented scale since the establishment of democracy” in Chile, referring to the 5,558 victims of institutional violence recorded by the public prosecutor.
More seriously still, Amnesty International believes that the “unjustified and excessive use of force” could correspond to a deliberate policy of the riflemen, and not to isolated acts, and that “far from being sanctioned, the violations were not only allowed , but also supported by [leur] General manager”.
Video shot in October 2019, in the town of Concepción, where a soldier is seen shooting a man in the leg.
A referendum on October 25
The current social movement was triggered by the rise in the price of metro tickets in the capital last October. But it then spread to the whole country, in order to denounce, more generally, socio-economic inequalities, particularly concerning access to health, education and retirement. These inequalities derive, in large part, from the ultraliberal doctrine governing the Constitution, which dates from the Pinochet dictatorship (1973-1990).
A sign that the situation could change, however: on October 25, the Chileans will be asked to vote during a referendum, to decide whether or not to adopt a new Constitution. In addition, they will have to decide to what type of body they wish to entrust with the drafting of the text.
Article written by Chloe Lauvergnier.